What You Can Do
National Audubon
Blog Archive

west rutland marsh - september monitoring report

It was a glorious first day of autumn at West Rutland Marsh! Forty-five species beat last year by three and our September average of 39. We originally thought the day’s tally was 44, but a photo later revealed we actually had one additional species, a northern parula. Thirteen lucky participants all contributed to the total.

The day started with two tussling marsh wrens near the boardwalk, perhaps an immature still begging food of an adult?

One of the highlights of the day was Philadelphia vireo, with a nearby red-eyed vireo for contrast. They were both feeding frantically, but we had good looks at each. It was a life bird for some participants. Two warbling vireos were singing weakly.

Swamp SparrowRed-winged blackbird and blue jay numbers were high with 243 and 69, respectively.

Warblers included the parula, a black-throated green warbler, a magnolia warbler, a chestnut-sided warbler and several common yellowthroats.

Gray catbirds are still around in good numbers – 14 (last year we counted 13). Swamp sparrows are stilling singing away as well as a few marsh wrens. White-throated sparrows are putting in an appearance as the season changes.

Raptor numbers were low, one in fact, a sharp-shinned hawk.

Species #151 for our monitoring walk appeared today: an immature northern mockingbird, keeping company with starlings. At first we thought it was a juvenile starling, but its long tail and white wing patches gave it away.

The next monitoring walk is scheduled for Saturday, October 15, at 8 a.m.

Today’s list:

Canada Goose  9
Wood Duck  12
Mallard  7
Great Blue Heron  2
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  2
Mourning Dove  6
Belted Kingfisher  2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Downy Woodpecker  8
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Eastern Phoebe  9
Philadelphia Vireo  1    
Warbling Vireo  2    
Red-eyed Vireo  3
Blue Jay  69
American Crow  4
Common Raven  3
Black-capped Chickadee  15
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Wren  1
Marsh Wren  3
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  14
Northern Mockingbird  1    
European Starling  5
Cedar Waxwing  2
Common Yellowthroat  4
Magnolia Warbler  1
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
White-throated Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  5
Swamp Sparrow  15
Northern Cardinal  2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1
Red-winged Blackbird  243
House Finch  1
Purple Finch  1
American Goldfinch  9
House Sparrow  1


un-hawk watch - september 17

Of all the bird outings, hawk watches are probably the hardest to plan. Not because of difficult birders, but because migrating hawks are so subject to weather conditions.

So it was on September 17 as we sent off for our annual trip to Mt. Philo State Park. As soon as we settled ourselves on the rocky promontory, we realized the gusting south wind was not in our favor. After sighting three immature bald eagles, two broad-winged hawks and one osprey, we sat down for our picnic lunch and plotted other stops for the day. Fortunately, there is always birding hotspot worth checking out in Addison County.

Lesser YellowlegsAt Charlotte Town Beach we spotted a black-bellied plover, two killdeer and a group of common mergansers. At the confluence of Otter and Dead creeks, a flock of 15 lesser yellowlegs with a single least sandpiper were near our viewing point. Further out in the water we could see a great egret and six great blue herons. A late barn swallow flew overhead.

Hoping for more shorebirds we stopped at the ‘Stone Bridge’ and came up with three more lesser yellowlegs, a Cooper’s hawk and an osprey.

When the birding slows down, birders eat ice cream! A stop at Goodie’s Snack Bar in West Addison left everyone smiling. And in an ironic twist to the day, a broad-winged hawk landed in the single tree outside the snack bar, said “nyah nyah nyah” and flew off.

Our last stop of the day was at McCuen Slang, we spotted another great egret, another osprey and a single lesser yellowlegs.



extreme spring birding

Cape May Warbler at Magee MarshPart 1:

May is the month that birders lose all common sense and want to be everywhere at dawn to find the arriving migrants. We certainly enjoy birding our local hotspots, but there are places in the country that concentrate these migrants as they make their way north to their breeding grounds.

In mid-winter a friend emailed me about an upcoming trip in May to Magee Marsh in Ohio with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and did I want to go? After a day of dithering and then reading an article about birding trips in our senior years, I signed up for the tour.

This area is on the south shore of Lake Erie and is a stopover for birds to feed in anticipation the flight across the lake as they head to the north woods. We met the tour group in Ithaca, New York at the Cornell Lab's Sapsucker Woods where the bus awaited eager birders. One of our leaders was none other than Stephen Kress of Project Puffin. Departing Ithaca we were off like migrating birds.

Our first stop was in Erie, Pennnsylvania where we birded Presque Isle State Park, a 3200-acre peninsula that arches out into Lake Erie. This area also gives birds a chance to refuel before continuing on. We stayed overnight and returned in the morning to bird the various habitats there. A nice variety of warblers plus other migrants was tallied. One exciting occurrence was a David Sibley sighting as he led a group for a birding festival.

After lunch it was back on the bus and off to Ohio where we birded the afternoon at the Ottawa NWR, a 6704-acre preserve for migrating birds. Touring the refuge we saw a nice variety of waterfowl and shorebirds.

Sunday morning dawned and with it the much anticipated boardwalk at Magee Marsh. We arrived early before the hordes of other birders. Sun on the trees had the insects in abundance and so too the birds. Standing in one spot we watched the warblers busily feeding: Blackburnian, Cape May, Bay-breasted, Prothonotary and more! We were nearly breathless as we searched the trees and seeing so many birds at once. As the morning wore on the boardwalk became packed, but many eyes found the birds and information was happily shared. As impossible as it seemed in this crowd I met Pat Folsom of the Mad Birders in Waitsfield!

All too soon this time of great birding came to an end. We had our lunch on the shore of the lake and then it was on the bus back to Ithaca.

Part 2:

Red Knot in Cape MayAs if that trip wasn't enough, I met my birding pals in Cape May two weeks later for several days there. Cape May is another important staging area for migrants, both spring and fall. Luckily the moon was full and the horsehoe crabs were laying their eggs. On a tip from a Vermont birder we headed to Reed's Beach and were stunned by the uncountable numbers of birds feasting on the crab eggs. Red Knots, Sanderlings, Willets, Least Sandpipers and more Laughing Gulls than any of us had ever seen!

This was a first for me, seeing shorebirds in breeding plumage as we usually only see them in basic plumage in Vermont on their return trip in the fall. We all agreed that if we saw nothing else on this trip it was worth the effort just to see this spectacle of nature.

Of course we checked out all the other hotspots and saw American Oystercatchers and Black Skimmers tending their nests. The fields and woods had a nice variety of passerines, but that scene on the beach was by far the most exciting.

How fortunate to have witnessed two wonderful nature events in one month and grateful for the Birdwatcher's Digest article on birding in your senior years. Do it now it said while you stil can!


west rutland marsh - july monitoring report

It’s hard to believe 15 years has gone by. In August 2001, Rutland County Audubon members set off on a  monthly monitoring walk at West Rutland Marsh with the idea that maybe we would do it for a year or two and that would be that.

Our first walk was on August 16, 2001 with 15 participants. We reported 45 species including a least bittern, 11 marsh wrens and four unidentified empidonax flycatchers.

People have asked us at the five, ten and now fifteen year anniversaries, what have we learned? Are there fewer birds? More birds? Different birds? The answer is we really don’t know. Trained ornithologists will have to answer those questions someday. As the database at eBird, where all our marsh walk sightings have been reported, grows maybe patterns will eventually be revealed. We are the collectors of the information, boots on the ground so to speak, citizen scientists. We’ve certainly added to the marsh species list over the years. Pine Warbler was our addition this past year.

Besides adding our sightings for science, we’ve made new friends and attracted volunteers for RCAS. For some this was their first and only experience with birding. For others it was a first sighting of a sora or even a song sparrow. A Virginia rail with young has always been a highlight. Children, and even some older participants, have used binoculars for the first time. We’ve had some lively discussions about bird identification. We’ve had quite a few laughs. At times we’ve been distracted by butterflies and snakes and frogs and plants. We’ve all become better birders and naturalists.

Looking back we see we have reached many people. Although it includes many repeats, our records show we have attracted 2,061 participants. Many are now supporters of the marsh, contributing to our marsh fund, participating in Green-Up Day and convincing others the marsh is not a swamp for dumping trash.

Weather has never stopped us. Sometimes we’ve walked with a biting wind and blowing snow in our faces, other times with the sun on our backs. We’ve been caught in a couple summer downpours. During one walk in January the temperature was well below zero. The highlight that day was a pine siskin huddled at a feeder. The walks have all been memorable for one reason or another.

So what happened today, our 180th walk?

Eleven birders participated, about our average for marsh walks, and included a birder from Burlington and another from Johnson. Although it was cloudy and humid, the possible thunderstorms did not materialize.

The best sighting came last. As with the first walk, we saw a least bittern! It flew a short distance as we rounded the corner of Water Street onto Marble.

The raptor count, however, was low with one northern harrier spotted. No Virginia rails were seen or heard. Marsh wrens and swamp sparrows, however, are still singing away.

A female wood duck was spotted with young while a second female was seen in flight.

Three brown thrashers were seen; two just north of the boardwalk and another a bit further up the road. All were strangely silent. The gray catbirds are still yakking away.

Both alder and willow flycatchers were noted, fortunately still singing so we could separate them.

Near the green house, formerly known as the yellow house, there was a mixed flock of barn, tree and northern rough-winged swallows, a portent of the next season. The flock included several immatures.

Warbler action has slowed, but the common yellowthroats and American redstarts are still very vocal. Only one yellow warbler was observed, a female foraging in a tree. Other warbler species were ovenbird and black-throated green warbler.

Today’s tally: 51 species, a bit below last July's total of 57, but two above our average for this month of the year.

The next walk: August 20 (Saturday), 7 a.m.

Today’s list:

Wood Duck  10
Mallard  4
Least Bittern  1   
Northern Harrier  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  8
Mourning Dove  6
Belted Kingfisher  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  4
Downy Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Alder Flycatcher  4
Willow Flycatcher  5
Least Flycatcher  2
Eastern Phoebe  2
Eastern Kingbird  5
Warbling Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  6
Blue Jay  7
American Crow  6
Common Raven  2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  5
Tree Swallow  12
Barn Swallow  17
Black-capped Chickadee  7
House Wren  1
Marsh Wren  11
Veery  9
American Robin  10
Gray Catbird  12
Brown Thrasher  3
European Starling  11
Cedar Waxwing  36
Ovenbird  1
Common Yellowthroat  17
American Redstart  10
Yellow Warbler  1
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  18
Swamp Sparrow  21
Eastern Towhee  1
Scarlet Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  2
Red-winged Blackbird  16
Common Grackle  4
House Finch  2
Purple Finch  6
American Goldfinch  17
House Sparrow  1


rcas annual report: 2015-16

Rutland County Audubon celebrated another successful year on July 6 with a delicious potluck supper, presentation of the annual report and election of next year's board members. Prior to the annual report and election, participants shared their favorite bird and nature stories from the past year.

After reading through the annual, we can be proud of last year's accomplishments. Looking forward we hope to do more. As always there is an endless need for volunteers. If you have time to spare for us, let us know! We can be reached at birding@rutlandcountyaudubon.org

Thank you to Roy Pilcher for preparing this excellent report!




2015-2016 Annual Report of the Rutland County Audubon Society:


RCAS members participated in the annual Vermont Green-Up Day at West Rutland Marsh on Saturday, May 7. This was the 24th year RCAS has participated in Green Up Day.

As of June 20, 2016 RCAS has undertaken 179 consecutive monthly bird monitoring walks each 3.7 miles, around West Rutland Marsh, a Vermont-designated Important Bird Area (IBA). A total of 149 bird species has been tallied by 2,037 participants. Pine Warbler was the onlynew species added during this past fiscal year, raising the the total species count to 149. All data is recorded on eBird.

a Prothonotary Warber in West Haven was a birding highlight this yearBird monitoring of the Mountain Top Farm Conservation Easement was continued under the spring/summer/fall protocol, initiated on June 14, 2012 by Steve Hagenbuch, Audubon Vermont's Forest Bird Initiative biologist. As of May 2016, 63 bird species have been recorded. All data is recorded on eBird.

A proposal to erect a bird blind and feeding station at Ayer's Meadow in the Mountain Top conservation easement was withdrawn. We at RCAS were having difficulty fitting it in since the conditions of the easement prohibit structures.

A proposal to erect a viewing platform at the Brandon Swamp wetland off Route 73 on the Brandon/Sudbury line was exhaustively investigated on several levels, but finally abandoned due to safety and environmental concerns. Thanks to Nate Dansereau for his investigative work.  Any future proposals of that type should start with local community support.

RCAS members participated for a fifth year in monitoring designated Audubon Vermont/VELCO power line rights-of-way for seven brush/grassland bird species in particular Golden-winged/Blue-winged Warbler.

RCAS members covered the lakes in Rutland County as part of the annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey.

RCAS provided financial support to the Vermont Bobolink Project and to the Vermont Center for Ecostudies that manages the VT eBird portal.


Marsh Day saw 27 fifth grade pupils from Poultney Elementary School participate in a four-activity event at the West Rutland Marsh presented by members of RCAS. The four activities included Life under the Water,  using shallow pans and microscopes; Bird Walk to acquaint participants with the birds of the marsh as well as how to use binoculars; Wetlands, a brief look at three types of wetlands and their beneficial functions; and Wetland Plants.

RCAS voted to provide financial support in the amount of $400 for the Leicester Central School’s Hawk Hill Field Study which involved students pre-k through 6th grade. Activities included twice a week hikes at Hawk Hill to learn about its wetlands with the support and interaction from Otter Valley Unified Union High School students who were involved in the Moosalamoo Program. Support for the program was made in conjunction with Otter Creek Audubon.

the Century Count was one of the year's highlightsRCAS maintained the kiosk and immediate area at the entrance of the West Rutland Marsh where marsh-related information is posted.  A new Watchable Wildlife sign was erected in West Rutland to direct visitors to the marsh.                          

On May 13, 2016 RCAS participated in the Buckner Memorial Preserve bioblitz involving Castleton Middle School students and Fair Haven High School students. It was organized and supplied by Castleton University professors and students.

Marsha Booker and Roy Pilcher, at the invitation of the Pittsford Preschool, presented programs that were well received by these young schoolers who were themselves receptive, enthusiastic and well-prepared.

Updated and posted the bird lists for the West Rutland Marsh, Pomainville WMA and Gifford Woods State Park. An additional list was provided to Aitken State Forest.

On October 13, 2015 Alyssa Bennett, bat spokesperson for Vermont Fish and Wildlife presented an excellent program on bats at the Rutland Free Library.

On January 26, 2016 Gary Starr presented his program on The Birds of Madagascar at the Rutland Free Library. Beside the birds the exposure to the landscape of Madagascar was particularly interesting.

On February 23, 2016 Hank Kastner, a world-wide birding enthusiast, presented his program, Birding in Kazakhstan at the Rutland Free Library. He also included pictures on a birding trip he took to Yemen. For those of us in the audience who will never visit these countries it was a most enlightening program. 

On March 16, 2016 Lee Allen presented his program on a Peruvian Cruise on the Amazo” at the Rutland Free Library. 

Thanks to Renee Warren, program director and board member, for organizing and planning all the above programs.

Recreated a display for the Vermont State Fair’s Forestry Pavilion in Rutland, based on Audubon Vermont’s Forest Bird Initiative that encourages forest managers to accommodate various nesting bird preferences. Thanks to Marsha Booker and Kathleen Guinness for their contribution. RCAS members also helped staff the Forestry Building during the fair.

Following some minor modifications, a set of 500 Bridge to Bridge brochures  for West Rutland Marsh were reprinted. Thanks to Mike Blust who spear-headed the project. Bridge-to-Bridge brochures were placed at the West Rutland town hall and West Rutland library. Partial funding was provided by an Audubon Vermont grant.

Audubon Adventures is now accessible digitally on line except for the newspaper. Schools that participated did so independently of RCAS. Thanks to Marsha Booker who coordinated this program over the years.

Submitted the West Rutland Marsh annual report to the Town of West Rutland to be incorporated into their annual Town Report.

A Super Senior segment featuring Roy Pilcher aired on WCAX and included a discussion of and scenes depicting the West Rutland marsh. A letter of appreciation was sent by the Town Manager and Select Board of West Rutland.


RCAS continues to support the work of the locally based USDA/NRCS office in the expansion of the Wetlands Reserve Program particularly in Rutland County along the Otter Creek. On June 24, 2016 RCAS participated in a celebration of the DeMarais Wetland Easement in Brandon, the largest wetland easement in the state, as well as other conserved lands along Otter Creek in Rutland County

RCAS holds the conservation easement on 15.36 acres of wetland now owned by BAI, LLC and a right-of -way access to the wetland. The adjacent property of 19.58 acres and the one traversed by the RCAS right of way is owned by Mid-Vermont Properties. The proposed development on the approximate eight acres of upland within the 19.8 acres goes by the name, Rutland Commons. RCAS and MVP were joint applicants in the prolonged, but eventually successful Act 250 permitting process for the initial Rutland Commons project. With no immediate clients the Rutland Commons project languished until 2014 when Saxon Partners, LLC indicated an interest and began the process in and through the local District Environmental Commission to acquire the necessary permitting. The opposition by BAI, LLC to the proposed Saxon Partners development continues at this time in the Vermont Superior Court, Environmental Division. RCAS remains an interested party awaiting a definitive ruling by the Court scheduled for September 2016. Throughout this prolonged process, RCAS has relied on the expertise of RCAS member Valerie Biebuyck, ably assisted by Marv Elliott to both of whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. RCAS has engaged the services of James A. Dumont, Esq. in case future legal representation becomes necessary. The defense of this significant wetland and the aquifer beneath it could become a project that lasts for many years in the future.


Monthly RCAS Board meetings, scheduled for the third Thursday of each month, were held throughout the year except December (due to the Christmas Bird Count).

Liability Insurance was again purchased through R V Nuccio, Insurance Brokers that covers board members and volunteers involving participants and/or property damage at events.

A Member Appreciation gathering and potluck was held on April 6, 2016 at the Proctor Free Library to recognize the contributions of Valerie Biebuyck for her efforts in supporting the RCAS cause of protecting the wetlands surrounding the former Rutland Commons project site.

RCAS was the host chapter this year for Vermont’s fall and spring Chapter Assemblies on Saturday, November 14 and Saturday, April 2 respectively.

Current RCAS membership stands at approximately 240 National Members. 

We continue the updating and development of our website inviting browsers to learn of programs, events and Birding Hot Spots.” Thanks to Webmaster David Jenne and Sue Elliott. Email alerts of new website articles and upcoming events are sent regularly by Tim Abraham.

a Northern Saw-whet Owl thrilled birders at the marshThe RCAS Flickr page exhibiting a wide array of bird, butterfly and dragonfly images found in Rutland County remains both well supplied with images and widely popular. We are also increasing our social media following through Facebook.

Thanks to Kathleen Guinness for secretarial minutes that make this Annual Report possible. In addition Kathleen has worked hard to organize many of our potluck suppers and meetings including the Christmas Bird Count.


The annual Mount Philo Broad-winged Hawk Migration field trip took place on September 15. Unfavorable weather conditions dictated the outcome with few hawks flying.

RCAS undertook two successful Bird Seed Sales and Membership Recruitment drives, one at Garland’s Farm and Garden in Rutland and the other at Brandon’s Blue Seal on November 7. A sum of $846 was raised in addition to the recruitment of ten new National Audubon members and one Friend membership.  

The forty-second Annual Christmas Bird Count and Pot Luck Supper was held on January 2, 2016. Thirty-two Field Observers and eight Feeder Watchers tallied 53 species on count day and a further two species during count week representing 8,452 individual birds. This number is closely aligned to the ten-year running average of 8,480 birds. All Christmas Bird Count data is entered on eBird. 

The annual Champlain Valley birding field trip, Winter Regulars and Raritie” was held on Saturday, January 21. A record 16 participants turned out in spite of a particularly inhospitable and blustery day, but they were rewarded with the sighting of 11 Bald Eagles and a large flock of Snow Buntings that included a few Horned Larks. Thanks to Roy Pilcher for leading the trip. 

The Century County Count XXI attracted 12 participants who recorded exactly 100 species during almost13 hours of birding in Rutland County on Saturday, May 28, 2016. Twenty-five checklists were submitted to eBird thanks to Sue Elliott. Conflict with Memorial Day celebrations has prompted suggestions for some new initiatives!